For ages one of the golden rules of health has been to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. However, recent scientific studies on sleep have revealed a surprising fact: eight hours of sleep a night may not be optimal. In fact, the latest studies show that those who sleep 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night tend to live the longest. And shockingly, the study also found that those who sleep 10 to 12 hours a night may have a shorter life expectancy. Along with this, scientists have discovered that our sleep needs change as we age. These studies raise an important question: how much sleep should we be getting?
Health experts say that if the optimal amount of sleep was plotted alongside age, the graph would be U shaped—we need more sleep early in life and late in life, and less in middle age. Scientists still do not know everything about sleep, but they do know that sleep is a crucial period during which our bodies repair themselves. Therefore, it makes sense that we need the most sleep when we are growing and when we are aging.
Despite these recent studies, sleep quality is still the most crucial component of feeling rested. The 6.5 to 7.5 hours described in the study means 6.5 to 7.5 hours of optimal sleep. Optimal sleep occurs when we spend the majority of the night in deep sleep. Unfortunately, as we age, we spend less time in deep sleep.
Health experts recommend naps as a way for seniors to supplement their sleep needs. Surprisingly, the most effective naps are short. The ideal length of an afternoon nap is around 30 minutes—any longer and the sleeper will wake up groggy and will have difficulty falling asleep at night.